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How to Recognize Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal involves sudden and severe mental and physical changes. Learn what to look for -- withdrawal can be fatal if not treated.


  • Step 1: Look for physical symptoms, including a persistent headache, profuse sweating, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, insomnia, severe trembling, a rapid heart rate, dilated pupils, clammy skin, involuntary movements of the eyelids, and seizures.
  • Step 2: Seek treatment if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms. In rare cases, DTs can lead to death if left untreated.
  • FACT: There were 79,000 alcohol-related deaths annually from 2001-2005.
  • Step 3: Be aware of hallucinations. Symptoms of delirium tremens, or DTs, may include seeing or hearing things that are not there.
  • Step 4: Look for emotional changes, such as depression and emotional volatility.
  • Step 5: Look for symptoms to occur beginning from 4 to 12 hours after a person stops drinking.
  • TIP: Symptoms can present as long as several days after the last drink.
  • Step 6: Look for psychological symptoms, including nervousness, jumpiness, shakiness, anxiety, irritability, and excitability.
  • Step 7: Understand that withdrawal symptoms only occur if a person has regular, heavy use of alcohol over a sustained period of time.

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